1930: The Launch of a Yacht that Would Have a Long and Versatile Life

December 8, 1930

The diesel-powered vessel Aras was launched by her manufacturer Bath Iron Works at the Maine-based company’s location on the Kennebec River. Measuring 243 feet and nine inches (74 meters) in length, this luxury yacht had been built for paper and wood products magnate Hugh J. Chisholm. His wife Sara (“Aras” is her name spelled backwards) christened the new vessel, slamming a bottle of water against the hull at 2:10 on a Monday afternoon.

Aras became one of the last great yachts of the pre-World War II era and, for more than a decade, Hugh J. Chisholm used the vessel for cruising along the Eastern Seaboard. He was planning to take his yacht around the globe until the outbreak of World War II made that impossible.

The war also opened a new chapter for Aras after the U.S. Navy commandeered her in 1941. The vessel was renamed USS Williamsburg and converted into a gunboat. The one-time pleasure craft was put to extensive military use in the Atlantic during the next few years; a large part of this service involved escorting Allied convoys between New York and Iceland.  

In 1945, Williamsburg was outfitted for a new assignment as the presidential yacht. President Harry S Truman traveled on Williamsburg so much that she became a sort of floating White House. His guests on board Williamsburg included Secretary of State George C. Marshall; President Miguel Alemán of Mexico; and British prime ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee. (The above photo of the vessel was taken during her time as USS Williamsburg.)

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who succeeded Truman as president in 1953, made only one trip aboard Williamsburg and then ordered her to be decommissioned. In 1962, Williamsburg was transferred to the National Science Foundation for use as an oceanographic research vessel. She was renamed Anton Bruun in honor of the renowned Danish marine biologist and took part in various scientific cruises until 1968. In 1971, the ship was sold by the U.S. Maritime Administration to a commercial interest. She was scrapped in January 2016.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Bath Iron Works vessel originally known as Aras, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Williamsburg

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